Motorcycle cop tickets a self-driving car in San Francisco

Cruise Automation says the car did nothing wrong

Now here's a genuine novelty: In San Francisco, a motorcycle cop pulled over an autonomous vehicle and issued it a ticket. The future has arrived.

But the reason — police said it failed to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk — probably shouldn't be taken lightly, coming a day after a self-driving car operated by Uber Technologies Inc. struck and killed a woman walking her bicycle across the road March 18 in Tempe, Ariz. Cruise Automation, the operator of the ticketed self-driving car, says the vehicle did nothing wrong. The story was first reported by CBS affiliate KPIX-TV.

Cruise tells the station that its onboard data shows the pedestrian was 10.8 feet away from the car when it began driving in autonomous mode down Harrison Street at 14th Street. The officer pulled the car over shortly after it began accelerating and ticketed the human test driver.

"Safety is our priority in testing our self-driving vehicles," Cruise said in a statement. "California law requires the vehicle to yield the right of way to pedestrians, allowing them to proceed undisturbed and unhurried without fear of interference of their safe passage through an intersection. Our data indicates that's what happened here." It tells the station the human test driver did everything right but is responsible for the citation.

General Motors purchased San Francisco-based Cruise in 2016 to boost its efforts to develop self-driving vehicles. GM is seeking federal approval for a fully autonomous car that lacks a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal to join its first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019, and it recently announced plans to build the car, which is based on a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, at a plant near Detroit.

Meanwhile, investigators and autonomous-vehicle equipment suppliers are still trying to figure out what went wrong in the self-driving Uber fatal crash. Uber and the family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman killed in the accident, have reached a settlement in the case.

The latest incident won't help convince a wary public about the safety of our increasingly inevitable self-driving future. It also makes us wonder: What happens when an officer tries to pull over a completely self-driving car that doesn't have a passenger inside of it? On that front, time will certainly tell.

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